Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Bit of Family History, or The Night My Father Almost Ran Down the Convoy

After reading part of a report my son's writing for a class, I decided to write down the information he'll need. By the time I was finished, I had an account of one of my father's experiences in the U. S. Navy during WWII: and thought it was worth sharing.

The Night My Father Almost Ran Down the Convoy

My father, Bernard Ives Gill, was a Lieutenant J.G. on an LST during World War II. One of this duties was standing watch on the bridge: and, being a rather junior officer, he often got the night watches.

On one of these, he told me, both he and the sailor at the helm neglected to observe a progressive change in position, relative to the rest of the convoy.

The LST was designed so that the signal cables or chains which ran from the bridge to the engine room passed right by the captain's cabin. And, being mechanical connections, they made quite a racket when someone on the bridge signaled the engine room, and someone in the engine room rang the repeater to acknowledge the order.

During night watches, it was customary for the slight adjustments in power which were necessary to keep the ship in position to be carried by a runner from the bridge to the engine room as written messages. That way, the captain could have a good night's sleep.

Back to that quit night watch.

An LST is very roughly as long as a football field, and weighs thousands of tons. It is not particularly maneuverable.

As I said, both my father and the sailor at the helm hadn't noticed that the stern of the ship ahead of them had been getting bigger. Not until they were too close for comfort.

And not until in was too late to send a runner. The ship's engines had to be re-set: fast!

I gather that the rattling, clanking, banging sound the repeater cables made in the captain's cabin brought him rather sharply awake. Naturally, he was curious as to why the sudden maneuver was necessary.

I don't know what happened after that: My father would only say that he was embarrassed, and that the captain wasn't pleased.

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